Maia: Bearing it all

(JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)

A sweet rendition of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” filled the air of a house in Pondok Indah, South Jakarta, as singer/songwriter Maia Estianty entered, clad in white suit, humming the tune for The Jakarta Post last week.

Maia began her singing career in 2003 as one half of duet Ratu, with Pinkan Mambo. Unlike other artists, who start young, Maia delayed her singing career in order to finish college.

She may have had a relatively late start in the entertainment industry, but she has sure worked hard to make up for lost time. As of this year, she has released five albums with her duo, despite line-up changes; first Pinkan Mambo was replaced by Mulan Kwok, who was in turn replaced by Mey Chan. This prompted a name change, to Duo Maia.

“I’m not an idealist. I always look at the market and world music trends so that I don’t fall behind,” Maia says of her efforts to survive in the music industry.

Her first album Mambo, with Pinkan, had a thick R&B flavor, the second album, Kwok, with Mulan, had a pop-rock feel, while her most recent effort, Duo Maia, with Mey Chan, is more disco rock.

“I don’t know what the next songs of Duo Maia will be like. I will keep monitoring world music trends. I usually pick up the trends from MTV or Channel V,” she said.

Besides working to promote Duo Maia, her record label, Maia Entertainment, is working on a project with the duo Pasto.

Apart from the singing career, Maia has her hands full managing her three cafes in Kemang (Roof, Venue and Tipsy), as well as Persaels, her outsourcing company. She is also busy with jury duty on the reality television program Dream Girl, which searches for talented singers among housewives and married women.

To stay on top of things Maia, like many of us, utilizes the internet. However, since she such a good listener, she usually meets up with her friends, who keep her up to date on current issues.
“For example, when I had to deliver a speech on cervical cancer, I asked one of my assistants to read the things he found on Google. After listening to the information, I could memorize and retell the information. It’s been a habit,” she said.

People often perceive me as a tough woman. I don’t see myself that way. But I do want to share my spirit with all Indonesian women.”

She found one way to transcend her spirit through he song “Sang Juara” (The Champion), which she wrote after watching a basketball match between Satria Muda Britama and Garuda Flexi Bandung. When Satria Muda won the game, Queen’s “We Are the Champions” was played. The situation tickled her nationalism.

“I thought, why don’t we have an Indonesian song for championship? So I wrote the song. Then I met Minister of Youth and Sport Affairs Adhyaksa Dault and he accepted the song. Therefore, if there is championship, they won’t use foreign songs anymore, but “Sang Juara.”

Maia wrote the songs on Duo Maia in just four months and said that the inspiration for them came naturally.

Actually, she said, Sang Juara was written not only for the athletes, but for all Indonesian citizens. The song sends the message that, despite our troubles, everyone must go forward.

“We must have the mentality of champions. Don’t be pessimistic or apathetic.”

It is her champion’s mentality that kept her sane during her rough divorce with Ahmad Dhani. Becoming single again on September 2008 after 12 years of marriage, Maia feels no rush to start another relationship. At the moment, she says, her children and her career come first.

Maia said that the marriage law accommodates the needs of women as it gives custody to mothers. However, as the legal process is still underway, her children are still under the supervision of her former husband.

“As a woman, I have to give in. Giving in doesn’t always mean losing it. I will be patient. After all, the children were born through me and they know their mother because they already grew up when we were separated. I’m sure they will try to find me,” she said.  

When it comes to teaching her children, she is strict, but sometimes uses a friendly approach. She believes that children should learn discipline at an early age and should not be given too much pleasure; lest they take life lightly.

Maia said that she is strict with her children when the situation calls for it. For example, when she found out that the children had shooting before school exams, she quickly banned them from all kinds of activity but studying.  

“They can do anything after exams as long as it is appropriate. If they want to work, it’s fine. But they should do it outside of school days so it won’t disturb their study.”

As a mother, Maia has no expectations for the children, and so she does not try and force them in a certain direction. “As parents, we can only give opportunities like music, school and soccer, but the rest is up to them.”

Being a mother and a career woman, Maia considers having a career a choice for women.

“I think it depends on the person. Being a housewife is also a profession, it’s not as easy as it looks. But if women want to pursue a career, they should do it well, they should ensure a balance between family and career.”

Despite the common perception that the working moms cause divorce, Maia said that prohibiting women from working is a form of domestic abuse.

“A career does not pose problems to the husband-wife relationship. Even Siti Khadijah [wife of Prophet Muhammad] worked and the Prophet did not prohibit her then. Why are women prohibited now?” she said.

Despite all the accomplishments women have made in the modern era, Maia thinks that the public still regard women as second best, something that can be seen in the lack of female legislators in the House of Representatives.

“Most House members are male; the public still don’t trust women to be representatives and leaders. Under the marriage law, men still become the leader, but women should not see themselves as number two. Men should be good leaders and behave. If the men behave badly, why should the women follow them? Men and women are equal. Why should women be treated differently?”

While waiting for the moment to reunite with her children, Maia immerses herself on her career. However, when the children are again under her supervision, she plans to go back to her old ways and spilt her time between her children and her career.  

Maia has landed roles in TV shows including Extravaganza and OB, as well as films, such as Oh My God and Kata Maaf Terakhir (The Last Word Of Forgiveness). She also keeps a blog, which can be found at: maia.blogdetik.com .

Besides receiving a great deal of work during the elections, Maia also got propositions from major parties to become a legislative candidate. She however turned down the offers, as she is enjoying her entertainment career.

“I find it more exciting to be a musician than it would be to become a candidate. If I ran for the election and won, it would be a tedious and bothersome job.”

Having all her hands full, Maia still plans to fit in a live performance.

“I have a plan to make a concert of Duo Maia, perhaps this year or the beginning of next year. I still haven’t figured out how the concert will go as it will be impossible for me to sing all the songs,” she said.

Maia Estianty
Place and Date of Birth: Surabaya, January 27, 1976

Bersama (Together, 2003)
Ratu & Friends (2005)
Nomor Satu (Number One, 2006)
Duo MaiaMaia & Friends (2008)
Sang Juara (The Champion, 2009)

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